Given what he called “propaganda” about the air-strikes on a terrorist base in Pakistan’s Balakot earlier this year, Indian fighter jets should have dropped bombs which would have destroyed entire structures, Air Force chief BS Dhanoa has told NDTV.
On February 26, Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter jets had crossed the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and dropped a penetrator variant of the Israeli-made Spice 2000 bomb on a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in northeastern Pakistan. This weapon penetrates buildings, kills human targets without necessarily destroying the entire building.
“On hindsight, if you see the propaganda war - we should have dropped the other Spice bomb, one which would have devastated the buildings,” Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said in an interview to mark the 20th anniversary of India’s victory in the Kargil War.
The lack of video or photographic evidence had proven to be problematic for the Indian Air Force, particularly after private satellite images of the Jaish camp released a day after the strikes appeared to show intact structures with only a handful of signs of clear bomb damage.
Confirming that imagery from Indian satellites of the impact of the strikes would have been helpful, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa explained some of the problems which were encountered following the strike.
“We counted on the satellites and all the clouds came… it happens. This is war. Things don’t happen exactly as per plan. We went about… that we need to kill the guys - the terrorists - we never went around destroying buildings,” he said.
With no satellite images immediately available, the Indian Air Force was forced to rely on high resolution satellite images provided by a friendly partner nation. These images, one of which was shown to NDTV, shows three clear impact points in one of the buildings the Air Force says it struck. However, confidentiality clauses have meant that the Air Force could not publish this image.
The Air Force and the government have been firm that the air strikes were successful in targeting the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp, following a suicide attack on a security convoy in Jammu and Kashmir that left 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers dead. Pakistan claims that the air strikes missed their targets.
“The operation was carried out to tell Jaish-e-Mohammed that no matter where you are - like in this case they were in Pakistan - we’ll come and get you. That message went down loud and clear - both to the Jaish-e-Mohammed and to the Pakistani establishment,” he added.